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MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Update

Published:  June 11, 2019

As Massachusetts employers are no doubt aware, employer obligations under the impending Mass. Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law are scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month, but there are still many important questions left unanswered. To that end, the business community has been pushing to postpone the implementation by three months, so there will be time for the state to answer these unanswered questions and, most importantly, adequate time for employers to prepare based on the state’s answers.

Trade groups have been urging the state to grant this extension for some time. Recently, Raise Up Massachusetts, the labor and community activist group that lobbied for the Mass. Paid Family and Medical Leave law, have joined the business community in advocating for the delay. Raise Up Massachusetts is likely aware of the plethora of unaddressed concerns faced by the business community, and probably understands that a bungled rollout could have disastrous effects. Therefore, it seems like there could be a general consensus that the PFML program is not yet ready for implementation.

These unlikely bedfellows have entreated Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo to implement the postponement. Governor Baker and Senate President Spilka’s office has publically supported the three month postponement. Additionally, a large bipartisan coalition of House and Senate legislators has also endorsed the delay. Speaker DeLeo has expressed openness, but has equivocated somewhat and has pointed to the need for greater information about proposals to compensate for the loss of funding during those three months.

As employers may be aware, the PFML law mandates that employers and employees begin making contributions starting July 1, 2019, although employees will not be entitled to benefits until January 1, 2021. But, there is a reason for the roughly one-and-a-half year delay between the start of contributions and the start of benefits. Because the PFML law creates new state bureaucracy, the initial year-and-a-half of funding is largely allocated for funding the new agency and the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund, from which employee benefits will be paid. If contributions are delayed by three months, the new agency and trust fund will lose a substantial percentage of the initial funding. To compensate for the delay, there have been proposals to increase the initial contribution rate.

Massachusetts is now less than one month away from implementation; it looks like the decision could go down to the wire. As there is no clear indication that lawmakers will agree on a postponement before the July 1st start date, employers should not rely on the chance of a last minute postponement. Employers should continue to assume the law will “go live” on July 1st, at least until there is clear indication that state legislators will officially approve a postponement.  

If you have any questions about the potential delay of PFML on your business, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.